By Monica Chapman
What began as an effort to meet a state mandate for increased energy efficiency has evolved into a comprehensive plan that will guide Ohio University's sustainability initiatives for decades to come.
Signed by Gov. Ted Strickland in January 2007, House Bill 251 addresses energy efficiency in state-funded facilities, including higher education institutions. The law requires all state-funded colleges and universities to develop a 15-year plan for implementing energy-efficiency and conservation projects, with the goal of reducing building energy consumption at least 20 percent by 2014, using 2004 as the benchmark year. The bill also mandates the development of energy efficiency and conservation standards for new capital improvement projects that cost more than $100,000 to construct.
Today, the Board of Trustees approved the university's House Bill 251 Implementation Plan, which Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus outlined in detail at Thursday's Resources Committee meeting.
Marcus presented the HB 251 plan in the context of a proposed Campus Sustainability Plan that answers Vision OHIO's call for an institutional commitment to sustainability and supports the Presidents Climate Commitment toward carbon neutrality.
"This is one of the most exciting developments on Ohio University's campuses when you think about it holistically," she said, noting that initial planning about how to meet the HB 251 mandates snowballed into the more ambitious overarching plan. "This is a real opportunity for continuing our leadership in this area."
The comprehensive plan will identify goals and objectives for Ohio University's main and regional campuses in 11 key areas. The university's HB 251 Implementation Plan addresses three of these: greenhouse gas emissions, energy and built environment.
Marcus laid out the goals, strategies, funding mechanisms and reporting requirements of the implementation plan, which will into effect in February when reporting begins.
A 20 percent reduction in energy consumption is an especially ambitious goal for Ohio University, Marcus said, because the institution's greatest strides in energy reduction occurred in the legislated baseline year.
"In terms of energy reduction, 2004 was the absolute worst year they could have picked because it was our absolute best year," she said. "So now we have to be more aggressive. We have to compete against ourselves."
Prior to the board's vote today, Trustee Larry Schey, who chairs the Resources Committee, noted that the Lausche Heating Plant's reliance on coal poses an additional challenge. "We use a lot of coal in our production of energy here," he said, "and it doesn't help us on some of the measures that are going to be taken (under HB 251)."
In addition to a 20 percent energy reduction, Ohio University's implementation plan seeks the same level of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve these ends, at least 20 percent of capital budget allocations must be put toward infrastructure efficiency projects, according to the plan.
Although the state mandate sets a fairly aggressive timeline for colleges and universities to increase their energy efficiency, it does not hold institutions accountable for meeting the target.
"House Bill 251 requires us to set a goal; it does not mandate that we have to hit that goal. But we are committed to this," said Bill Decatur, senior vice president for finance and administration.
The HB 251 plan seeks to position Ohio University as a leader in building energy efficiency, exceeding the current standards for new construction projects and renovations, as set forth by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. It also calls for increased sustainability and engineering personnel in proportion to built spaces and advocates pursuing additional funding opportunities and alternative fuel sources.
Marcus said education and outreach also will play an essential role, fostering a community-wide energy consciousness.
Jennifer Krisch contributed to this story.